As I’m getting a little better at playing fiddle, I’ve been feeling that it was time to upgrade my bow. I decided to sell one of my banjos to fund a bow purchase. It was time to part ways with my Bart Reiter Standard banjo, a great instrument I’ve been playing for several years. I managed to sell that banjo at a fair price, and I hope the fellow who bought it enjoys playing it as much as I did.
I made an appointment to try out some bows at the Sound Post. I asked to try bows at various price points from a couple hundred to about $800. I also wanted to try both pernambuco and carbon fibre bows. They were very accommodating at the store and had prepared for me several bows to try.
The first thing that struck me as I tried the various bows was that all of them were a big improvement on the one I’ve been using. I started listening closely as I played the various bows and managed to eliminate some of them fairly quickly. I did all this without knowing the price or details of any of the bows. It was visually obvious which were the carbon fibre bows vs wood but that’s all I knew.
My selection was down to 3 octagonal wood bows and 1 carbon fibre bow. I liked one of the wood bows particularly. The person who was helping me also gave me her assessment of the various bows with my fiddle. It turned out the 3 remaining wood bows were all the same model but the same manufacturer, Knoll, from Germany. I learned that with wood bows, each bow is a little unique, even compared to others of the same model. Carbon fibre bows, on the other hand are apparently more consistent from one to the next of the same model. I guess that is because they are manufactured to tight tolerances.
I thought the carbon fibre bow was a close second to my favourite of the pernambuco bows. When I played the wood bow the sound seemed maybe a bit warmer. It isn’t so easy for me to describe the differences. The carbon fibre bow felt to me maybe a bit grittier. I’m talking about a small difference. I think I would have been perfectly happy with the carbon fibre bow as well. It turned out the wood bow I liked was considerably less expensive than the carbon fibre one, and that’s what I ended up purchasing with my banjo money.
The new bow feels and sounds great. It brings out much better tonal range from my fiddle than the one I’ve been learning with. As well, it has much more power, and I feel it is working with me, not against me.